Skoogmusic was founded in 2009 by Dr Benjaman Schögler and Dr David Skulina at the University of Edinburgh during an educational research project that aimed to address the lack of musical instruments designed for children with physical or learning disabilities. Now approaching its 10th anniversary, MUSIC:ED asked Ben Schögler about the organisation’s latest developments.
Hi Ben, it’s nearly 10 years since you hit the ground running with your first invention, the Skoog, a groundbreaking, tactile musical cube that anyone can play. What’s been happening at Skoogmusic?
In the last 12 months, we’ve had our minds blown by the potential to reach more people than ever before. Skoog is building on its roots as an education and disability-led innovation into ‘a musical instrument that anyone can play’ – children, families and educators everywhere.
One highlight was back in April 2017 when Apple launched its new Field Trip program in Apple Stores around the world. Inspiring creativity and collaboration, the new program includes two new music sessions built around Skoog. As a result, Skoog is now available in over 40 countries, giving us a chance to connect with users and teachers on a truly global scale.
A few months later in June 2017, Apple announced that Swift Playgrounds, its educational coding app for iPad, will offer exciting new ways to learn to code using robots, drones and Skoog. This is about exploring the inner workings of technology while learning to code and build your own apps. It enables users to get under the hood of Skoog to open up the possibilities that come from being part of a wider ecosystem of connected devices.
Connecting the future
So you’re looking at an ever-more connected future. How are you developing Skoogmusic to keep pace with Skoog’s global success?
As we grow, and more people get their hands on Skoog, we continue to get great feedback and ideas from teachers, musicians and parents from all walks of life. This has become a huge source of inspiration for us. So this year, we had a brainwave. Let’s create a community of like-minded musical freedom fighters: people who are passionate about Skoog but, more importantly, advocates of the principle behind our product, which is to unlock the pleasure of making music for all children and families; a hive mind for brilliant ideas and shared experiences with a few perks and benefits included; a place for this community to try out new products and ideas before they hit the market… the Skooghero programme was born!
Sounds interesting. Tell us more!
We know Skoog has huge potential in education. We’ve seen some amazing results and it is our aim to get Skoog into as many schools as possible to allow children globally to enjoy the fun and rewarding benefits that music-making brings. Skoog is used in a variety of schools across a broad curriculum from Music to Science, Maths, Computing and e-learning and from Early Years and Special Educational Needs (SEN) to Secondary. The possibilities are endless!
Skooghero is a free, professional learning programme designed to support and celebrate educators using Skoog for teaching and learning. We are on a mission to find out what impact Skoog has on young people in schools and organisations. Just like our Skoog motto of being inclusive, the programme is open to all educators – whether they are completely new to technology or have been using Skoog for years, whether they own a single device or one for every student.
So what’s been the response?
So far, the response to the Skooghero campaign has been amazing – with teachers from Sydney to Syracuse enrolling to share their expertise. Here’s a recent example of Skoogheroes at Redesdale Primary School in North Tyneside at work:
We’re really excited by the potential this offers for expanding our worldview on how people can use our technology while, at the same time, feeding into development of new technology. In recent years, innovation has revolutionised the way that the world listens to music, bringing incredible accessibility, and we passionately believe that creating music needs to be part of a ‘big’ society, in the fabric of our everyday lives and something that is for the many. Partnering with Apple on projects like the in-store Field Trip program and enabling creative minds to explore new horizons in how to make music through the Skooghero programme offer some amazing opportunities for the future and we can’t wait to see what the rest of 2018 brings.
To find out more about Skoogmusic’s education programme and becoming a Skooghero, please click here.
Header photo: Pupils at a UK Special Educational Needs school using Skoog in a lesson
About Ben Schögler
Ben Schögler is the CEO and Co-Founder of Skoogmusic. He is passionate about making music accessible for all young people, encouraging creativity and applying new technology to create useful and practical solutions in real world settings.
Ben is a keen musician and a developmental psychologist with a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. In 2006, the university engaged in a research project with educational development organisation, The Tapestry Partnership, to address the fact that no musical instruments existed that were specifically designed for children with physical or learning disabilities. The vision was to produce an instrument that would meet the needs of children with a broad range of disabilities and allow them to learn and progress as musicians on an equal footing with fully able children.
Over the next two years, Ben was one of the project’s lead researchers alongside Dr David Skulina. They worked extensively with teachers and pupils in Special schools across Scotland to hone and develop their ideas. By early 2008, the project had produced a prototype instrument that was the first version of what would become the Skoog.
In order to commercialise on the opportunity presented by the Skoog, Skulina and Schögler formed Skoogmusic Ltd in 2009. In early 2010, Skoogmusic successfully completed its first round of funding, attracting investment from Barwell Plc, Daedalus Capital and the Scottish Enterprise Scottish Co-investment Fund. The investment was facilitated by LINC Scotland, the national association for business angels, allowing the company to begin manufacturing and supplying the instrument.
Skoog 1 launched online with the Apple Store across the EU in 2013. Skoogmusic then ran a successful Indiegogo campaign in 2015 to fund the final stages of development for the new wireless Skoog 2.0.
In 2016, Skoogmusic launched Skoog 2.0 globally online with Apple.com and in selected Apple retail stores worldwide. The company now has five full-time members of staff and continues to make, support and market Skoog across the globe.